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the milky way

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The stars in the Milky Way

Bright in the cold night sky

Twinkle in her diamond eyes

Dwell in her garden of senses

To unravel the universal mystery.

Author’s Note: Last night’s sky was studded with beautiful stars imbuing me with a new kind of hope and comfort that life is not such a formidable juggernaut to deal with. The beauty of nature did me good indeed. This is my mind’s imprint of the beauty. 

‘The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married Into the British Aristocracy’, by Anne de Courcy – review

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married Into the British AristocracyThe Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married Into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

They were the Beautiful Buccaneers dressed in fine dresses a la Parisian mode, expensively educated in Europe, and exclusively cultivated in the upper echelon of the Classless Class Society. They were American women seeking English aristocratic men who could promise them with prestige of class distinction with a complementary endowment of stately country houses, royal banquets, and a general carte blanche to basically all social occasions, events, and establishments exclusive to a select few. Although it wasn’t exactly akin to the plebeian idea of “Mail-in Bride,” the wealthy American women were vying for the lordly attention of the English bachelors of peerage at the ballrooms of high social clubs. These celebratory high society American women are unveiled in Anne De Courcy’s telling episodic vignettes of The Husband Hunters.

At first, De Courcy’s portrayal of these American Cinderellas is deemed to be cast in rather favorable light despite their manifest materialistic intent on marrying peerage not for love but for necessity. De Courcy eulogizes the idea of “American Beauty” whose circumstances conspired to make her feel that she was mistress of her fate and who always got what she wanted, the remarkable American character that looked so irresistibly attractive and desirable in the eyes of high-class English men. In addition, American women were said to always adonize themselves with fashionably beautiful dresses with a natural air of confidence blurring the boundary of arrogance, which was also oddly very alluring about them. De Courcy is unfailingly sympathetic toward these young beautiful American social arriveste, for theses women fell by the wayside of the highest circle of social class by their birth and ranks, such as whose daughters they were, despite the constitutional credo of freedom to all without hereditary succession of peerage and the entitlement of prestige equal to the inherited ranks. In De Courcy’s humane perspective, these American Cinderellas were in one way or another victims of social discrimination per se of their time.

The book has also nice diversions in contextualizing the cultural and social ambiance of the time, including the introduction of one Charles Frederick Worth, the progenitor of modern-day fashion house designer and trailblazer of hauteur-coutre. Working as a ship assistant at a London tailor shop until the age of 12, Worth went to Paris alone and set up his design studio with exquisite choice of fabrics and gorgeous design that soon caught the eye of Empress Eugene, a tall, slender, beautiful woman who was a great model for Worth’s fabulous dresses, and thus became the most sought-after designer in the Western Hemisphere. Of course, the American young women of the moneyed class were intent on buying the dresses made by Worth in Paris to adorn themselves at social balls to woo their desirable aristocratic suitors from England. For these women firmly believed if they were not worth the wooing, they surely were not worth the winning in consideration of Shakespeare’s fierce observation of beauty as a standard of woman’s merit to escalate social status by marriage: “She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed. She’s a woman, therefore to be won.”

The gem of this book is its cleverly nuanced subject matter underlying the hypocrisy of American credo of Independence, Equality, and Freedom, vis-a-vis European, especially their former colonial English, class snobbishness. inherited entitlement of landed peerage, against which Americans claimed to fight and guarded. The American moneyed class needed titles to level themselves with dignitaries to display their flowing hard cash. What it used to be inter-class marriage became intra-class marriage by uniting the well-heeled bourgeoisie with blue-blooded aristocrats. But what good of it if such without end businesslike marriage was loveless, heartless, and soulless? The fear of falling into unwanted spinsterhood might have been deemed miserable, but the repining at the prospect of being an old maid shouldn’t be the main force of being wed at leisure. For marriage is indeed a matter of more worth than to be dealt in by attorneyship as the Bard keenly observed. The Husband Hunters to me is more of a social context of American moneyed class of the time and their economic power that could acquire centuries-old ranks and titles. Such a marriage was regarded as a biblical bond of objectives (money) and prestige (title) in the minds of the American rich families of the time when it was believed that women’s fortune depended upon strength of men. In light of the above, this book is provocatively revealing and cleverly ironic to learn of these American Princesses.

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What happened to Mona Lisa on August 21, 1911

687px-Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched108 years ago from today, an Italian handyman named Vincenzo Peruggia stayed a night at Louvre with Leonard da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in his arms and walked away the next morning with a trunk where the famous da Vinci’s woman was hidden. The workers coming to work at the museum early in the morning saw him but didn’t cast a shred of doubt that the unassuming handy man would keep the painting at his house for the next 2 years.

What’s more, the museum had not noticed the missing of Mona Lisa until a visitor inquired after its whereabout. Mona Lisa was surely a beauty with a mysteriously enticing smile, but no one seemed to fancy her to a heart’s content; she was just one of da Vinci’s paintings worth displaying as a panoply of his ingenuity.

Back in the humbling dwelling of Peruggia – the handyman who in his heart was a patriotic guardian of the Italian cultural treasures-, the kidnapped Mona Lisa began to cohabitate with him by perchance for 2 good years until her Italian abductor finally decided to return to his homeland with her. In his mind, Peruggia might have thought it just to return Mona Lisa to her birthplace as he was taking her to a local museum. On the contrary, it was not a wreath of olive for his patriotism that was bestowed on him but a pair of metal handcuffs that was going to be presented to him for smuggling. To pour salt in the punctured wound of his heart, Peruggia had to serve a brief spell in prison.

What happened to Mona Lisa thereafter was a proverbial tale of an ordeal-turned-fortune; upon returning to the Louvre, Mona Lisa became so famous with the antics that she was the celebrity of the museum, let alone the most known painting of her creator all over the world. Shakespeare was right because Peruggia’s abduction of the painting was a tide that brought her timeless fortune.

dare to be an egoist

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Charles Lamb (1755-1834), an English essayist and a clerk in the Accountant’s Department of the East Indies Company, rhapsodized about a solipsistic ritual of mealtime. “Oh, the pleasure of eating my dinner alone!” Seraphina also liked to have lunch by herself. No, she’s not antisocial or misanthropic into the bargain. It’s just that after enduring what with blaring tempers of her lawyer bosses and what with her worldly wayward female co-workers who shared none of her character and interest, a solitary lunchtime was her much-needed lull before the second part of a daily drama or comedy at work. However, these days Seraphina’s lunchtimes had been punctuated by almighty workloads and ceaseless insipid tweets of her co-workers, whereupon Seraphina wrote a letter to Wise Mary for motherly advice and received her heartwarming and feasible reply promptly.

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Dear Seraphina,

What I gather from your account is that you yearn for romantic independence and existential freedom in the sense that this reality of daily life is unbearable to deal with to your introverted self that longs for pure selfhood defined by a proud indifference to social convention, forced socialization. I see your dilemma: whereas professional artists who earn their living by their pictures and letters achieve grace through their oeuvres, you can’t live your life like theirs that seem far-fetched, abstract, and impractical to lead a solipsistic life. Today’s world of hyperactivity and self-promotion has made an outlaw of silence. Hence, the contemporary culture pathologizes sui generis individuality, contriving a perfectly sane person into a classic basket case. Notwithstanding all this public animosity toward your deposition, you can still keep your studied solitude and sovereign independence by keep focusing your creative spirit on your reading and writing and making it as your primary reality, while fulfilling demands placed upon your daily tasks at work as an existential means to your ultimate cause for self-confidence and self-esteem. In this regard, modus vivendi is needful to make your life easier; you compromise your way of life with existential needs of life without losing your personal independence. And think simply and act smartly. Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself. Refrain from anxiety, turn from impatience. Do not fret, for it only leads to trouble. Hope this helps.

Yours in Love,

Wise Mary

fe8e1396fdfe9fd607d647a2fce31842Upon reading this thoughtful and caring reply of advice from Wise Mary, Seraphina’s doldrums were cast away in her emotional course charted in the sea of unknown tomorrows. And her blithe, proud rendering of reclusiveness and independence encapsulated in her refrain of “Let it be me.” She recited that her wallowing egotism and studied aloofness were not toxic traits of punishable narcissism but a manifestation of human nature to glory in the sacredness of solitude to distill things heard, seen, and experienced in the world into her own realm of consciousness to construct a reality of the world from within. Dared to be a proud solipsist, Seraphina would make sure that she would enjoy her lunch alone reading and writing with a cup of coffee no matter what.